Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Out and About in the East Village

In this ongoing feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village or Lower East Side.

By James Maher
Name: Grace Kang
Occupation: Owner, Pink Olive, 9th Street between 1st and A
Photo Location: 8th Street
Date: Wednesday, June 21

I was born in Korea and we emigrated when I was 7 to Las Vegas. We later moved to California, then my father got a job for the City of New York. So we moved to New Jersey when I was in 7th grade. I grew up there and New York was the place where I came to start my adult life.

I was always in retail. I was a buyer for Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York. I was in the fashion space, which was competitive and fast-paced. I always said that if you can survive fashion in New York, you can survive anything.

The East Village has a very special place in my heart since it was [the location of] the first Pink Olive store. The East Village is where I feel like I grew up and found my home when we moved to the city. It was one of those places where I just felt comfortable. The city can be very overwhelming for a lot of people and the East Village is very neighborhoody.

I remember the East Village being a place where I could discover new things, whether it would be new inspirations or ideas. Especially Ninth Street, when it was starting to come into its own. Usually side streets are not the best location for commercial spots, it’s usually all about the avenues, but there was something about Ninth Street that felt like there was something happening. I wanted to be part of that, so when I found the space it was kind of a no-brainer to open my first shop. That was 2007. I just celebrated 10 years. We’re a whimsical gift and lifestyle boutique. We carry an eclectic mix of a lot of creative gifting ideas for little ones to loved ones.

I always thought I would open up a clothing store because that was my background, but looking back, I think I didn’t because that space is not only competitive, which I don’t mind, but it was also a different world back then from where it is now. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have survived that world, because it’s even hard for the big companies, not to mention the little ones. I managed to luck out with the landlords that I ended up meeting. That’s half the battle with any retail business.

There are still some good landlords out there, and when you find one of them, you have to jump on [the opportunity]. I’ve heard the opposite side of that — so many scenarios. I have friends with retail businesses and heard stories of going to court with landlords or getting booted out. It happened on Ninth Street near us. All of those businesses had to leave when Icon bought the building [at 441-445 E. Ninth St.]. It’s sad when that happens. Those were my neighbors, my friends — they really completed that Ninth Street experience.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.


Anonymous said...

Pink Olive is a lovely little store. I also live on 9th Street and also miss my neighbors and favorite stores that Icon Realty forced out with their greed.

Anonymous said...

Grace is so sweet! I met her while doing some business profiles and she was so very nice. I wish her and Pink Olive continued success.